Countries of Scotland’s size significantly outperform the UK

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Paving the way towards an independence referendum in 2023

The Scottish Government has now unveiled its first independence paper – outlining Scotland’s potential to thrive as an independent nation.

In last year’s elections, voters in Scotland gave an overwhelming mandate for a post-pandemic independence referendum and there is a clear pro-independence majority in the Scottish Parliament.

The “Building a New Scotland” series, with more papers coming soon, will outline the case for an independent Scotland.

This first paper sets out the tools and levers available to independent countries, and explores the many ways in which Westminster control holds back Scotland’s potential.

Click here to read the full paper, or scroll down for a handy summary of the key arguments.


With independence, people who live in Scotland – not distant Westminster governments – will be in control

Scotland hasn’t voted for the Conservatives since 1955, but we keep getting saddled with Tory governments we reject, imposing damaging policies that we’re all forced to pay the price for.

The crucial point is this: independence is about strengthening democracy and always getting the governments we vote for.

In an independent Scotland, crucial decision-making power will rest with the people who live in Scotland.


Westminster control is holding Scotland back

Analysis in the Scottish Government paper finds that neighbouring independent countries of Scotland’s size – like Ireland, Belgium or Denmark – are all wealthier, happier and fairer than the UK.

Scotland’s position as part of the UK isn’t allowing us to reach our full potential, and the ‘status quo’ within Westminster control is holding us back.

This is significantly worsened by Brexit, which was imposed against our will and is hurting our economy, our businesses and our communities.

If other countries in Europe can build better societies and be successful, so can Scotland – particularly with our highly educated population, our abundant resources and innovative industries.


Independent countries of Scotland’s size outperform the UK

The UK is already performing poorly relative to many countries in Europe, especially countries of a similar size to Scotland.

While comparable independent countries lead the way on levels of fairness, happiness and social equality, the UK currently has the worst levels of poverty and inequality in north west Europe.

The Scottish Government’s paper focuses on “comparator countries” with similar features to Scotland – which includes Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Belgium, Netherlands, Ireland, Austria and Switzerland.

What do these countries have that Scotland doesn’t? All the economic levers and the ability to tailor policies to their specific interests and circumstances. In other words, independence.


They have a significantly higher quality of life

Among the world’s most successful societies are independent countries of Scotland’s size that have successfully combined social solidarity with strong economic development.

Relative to the UK, these countries have:

  • Lower income inequality, with the UK at the top of the table for income inequality and Iceland, Norway, Belgium, Denmark, Finland and Austria and Sweden being among the world’s top 10 most equal nations.
  • Lower poverty rates, with all the comparator countries significantly beating the UK, particularly in terms of child poverty which drastically increased under the austerity policies of the Tories.
  • Higher social mobility, with the World Economic Forum’s Social Mobility Index 2020 showing how countries of Scotland’s size account for the top 9 places, while the UK lags behind in 21st place.
  • Higher average wages, with Iceland at $67,488, Netherlands at $58,828 and most comparator countries significantly ahead of the UK average wage.
  • Lower gender pay gap, with all comparator countries apart from Austria having more equal pay than the UK.
  • Significantly higher statutory sick pay, with the UK having the lowest level of mandatory sick pay in the OECD.

And they are able to develop more dynamic and more productive economies

Independent nations of Scotland’s size have successfully developed some of the world’s most dynamic, productive and innovative economies – while maintaining high levels of wellbeing.

Compared to the UK, these nations have:

  • Higher productivity rates – according to the most recent OECD data, measured as GDP per hour worked. Ireland is at the top of the league, with $111.80, and the UK lags behind on the bottom at $61.30.
  • Higher investment in research and development, with the UK spending below the OECD average every year since 2000, while Denmark, Sweden and Finland spending well above average.
  • Higher rates of registering patents, with all comparator countries except Ireland and Iceland registering more patents per head of population than the UK.
  • Better “global competitiveness”, according to the World Economic Forum’s 2020 report looking at rates of IT adoption, digital skills, and digital legal frameworks. Sweden featured in the top 10 on all three measures, while the UK didn’t feature in the top 10 on any.

Scotland has what it takes to thrive with independence

Scotland has the resources, the talent and the industries to succeed with independence – possessing similar, or greater, natural advantages to nations such as Ireland or Norway.

The evidence demonstrates the potential we have to build a more prosperous, fairer country – and below are just a few examples.

  • Vast natural and renewable energy resources, with 25% of Europe’s entire wind power and tidal power potential flowing through Scotland.
  • Innovative economy and a vibrant research sector – with our life sciences sector growing 7% each year since 2010, and Edinburgh and Glasgow named as two most innovative UK cities outside of London.
  • Highly educated population – Scotland has some of the world’s oldest and finest universities and Scotland’s people are among the most highly educated in Europe. 47% have university, college, or vocational qualifications – 5% above the UK average, and 16% above the EU average.
  • A highly attractive environment to invest – with a welcoming business environment, a highly skilled workforce and levels of foreign direct investment that outpace the UK and Europe. The recent EY survey found that Scotland has reached “its highest attractiveness level ever”, with a rapidly expanding digital sector.
  • A world-leading approach to tackling climate change – with a binding target of reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2045 and Scotland’s climate action praised by the UN, including the commitment to climate justice.
  • A thriving export industry – with Scotland’s food and drink sector worth around £15 billion and renowned for its high environmental and consumer standards. We export more manufactured goods to the EU and those countries that the EU has a free trade deal with, than we do to the rest of the UK – and Scotland is the only part of the UK that exports more goods than it imports.

Remaining part of a failing UK is the risky option

Independence itself won’t be the magic bullet that would allow Scotland to replicate the success of similar countries overnight – however the powers of independence would allow Scotland to choose a different path to Westminster failure.

While countries of a similar size to Scotland achieve better outcomes – with fairer, wealthier and happier societies – Scotland’s potential is held back as the key economic levers remain at Westminster.

Brexit – which Scotland never voted for – is causing heavy damage to our economy, while recent analysis found that the UK is heading for the lowest growth in the whole OECD, apart from heavily-sanctioned Russia.

Westminster political choices, implemented by Tory governments we haven’t voted for since 1955, are making us poorer – and only with the full powers of independence can we build a better society and make better choices.

Scotland will have that choice. Pledge your support for independence, share this article with 5 friends or family, and get involved with the campaign.